|Just Like a Man is probably a love-it-or-hate-it kind of book. There might be an intriguing story underneath, and if the author had simply forgotten about trying to be hilariously funny and concentrated on making her characters into people readers could care about, this book might have been a lot of fun. As it is, it’s mostly tiresome noise of the sitcom variety.
Michael Sawyer, ex-secret agent, (and code-named Raptor) is dragged back into service because a former enemy named Adrian (code-named Sorcerer) is about to destroy the world. Readers may be forgiven for wondering if they’ve wandered into an issue of Action Komix. Adrian is on the board of a high-hat private school in Indianapolis, run by one Hannah Frost, who is the “overworked, overextended, overdressed, but egregiously underpaid – not that she was bitter or anything – director.” If you liked that last bit, you’re in luck because it appears about fourteen times in the first two chapters. It also sets Hannah up as a whiner armed with a lot of throwaway lines.
Michael, knowing Adrian is quite capable of destroying the world, promptly enrolls his son Alex at the school so he can get close to Adrian. The fact that he’s put his own child into close proximity with a known villain doesn’t signify here. To get the goods on Adrian, Michael decides to start with Hannah. Hannah, who is gorgeous, knows that love is not for her. No way! But Michael is so sexy. Michael thinks Hannah is hothothot. But is she part of Adrian’s plot, whatever is it?
There’s a secondary romance between Selby, a young teacher at the school, and a much older guy who is a millionaire in disguise. Selby works four jobs and dresses like a nun for most of them, but at school, she wears micro-mini skirts. Given the twenty-year age gap, this is basically a “rescue-me, Sugar Daddy” romance.
Hannah is, quite frankly, not only a whiner but also stupid. When she’s not complaining about having to attend school functions or how she’s overdressed, underpaid, etc., she’s dealing with young Alex (standard Precocious Kid) who tends to tell whoppers. Unfortunately for Hannah, she can’t tell the difference. Alex, for example, tells Hannah his mother died in mysterious circumstances in “Badguyistan”, which Hannah is “fairly certain didn’t exist”, and his twin sisters were kidnapped in “Outer Villainopolis”, which Hannah is also “pretty confident didn’t exist”. Gee, you think? Since this happens on page 10, Hannah is now officially labeled TSTL. Surely the author meant this as comedy, but making the heroine sound like an idiot isn’t funny.
Michael is a cardboard cutout hero, falling into lust with Hannah and then discovering that she’s an amazing woman, etc. The “Adrian destroying the world” subplot pops up occasionally but is totally absent for long stretches while Michael and Hannah try to get into each other’s pants. And, of course, he can’t tell her how he feels, which is where the book gets its title. It was impossible to care about either of them.
I liked Thomas, the millionaire, who becomes infatuated with Selby. He was fairly interesting and his scenes were the most enjoyable in the book. But he couldn’t carry the show on his own.
I don’t know what this book was intended to be. High camp? Contemporary Romantic Comedy? Given the author’s penchant for repeating her comic lines over and over and over, I’m guessing it’s the latter. But if the humor doesn’t strike you as hilarious, and in most cases it didn’t for me – it’s a little like being bludgeoned. On the other hand, Just Like a Man is silly enough to end up as a blockbuster Hollywood movie. I hope Ms. Bevarly has a good agent.